“i had no ecological sensitivity,”
declares jesus christ
but did not have environmental consciousness.
RACHEL Global warming, droughts, hurricanes, floods – the predictions for our planet could not be more alarming. In a few years half the population of the world will have no water to drink. A good hot day to you, Jesus.
JESUS Yes, Rachel, it’s really a lot hotter here than at the Dead Sea.
RACHEL In your time was it cooler?
JESUS Yes, much cooler. My country was always warm, but never like this.
RACHEL Emisoras Latinas is broadcasting today from alongside the eastern walls of Jerusalem. In the last program, from this place that is so symbolic, you confessed to us, Jesus, that you had been wrong two thousand years ago when you thought the world would soon come to an end.
JESUS Yes, it was a error much worse than the one our father Isaac made, when he mistook one son for another.
RACHEL You went on to say that God was not at all responsible for the events that would lead up to the final cataclysm. And you made dramatic call to us human beings, urging us to avoid this tragic end. Am I being faithful to your words?
JESUS You’re a faithful journalist, Rachel. That’s what I said.
RACHEL Well, then, since yesterday our network has received many messages from environmental activists of different organizations. They were quite encouraged by your words and are anxious to hear you offer more ecological proposals that might help inspire them in their protests. Listen to what they say.
YOUTH Jesus, I speak to you on behalf of a group of young people. After hearing you yesterday, I felt that you are one of our own. You are green, man! Why don’t you recall for us your words you spoke back then about the relations between human beings and nature?
RACHEL What do you have to say to our young listener?
JESUS Perhaps I will disappoint him. I would say that … I never spoke about that topic he mentions…
RACHEL You said nothing?
RACHEL A man so attuned to the lilies of the field, the birds in the sky – a poet of love – are you going to tell us that you had no environmental sensitivity?
JESUS No, I didn’t have any. You know, Rachel, I never even spoke the word the young fellow used, “nature” – I never mentioned it.
RACHEL And what word did you use?
JESUS Creation. God the Creator and the world his creation. But what was unfortunate was that from the first page of the scriptures we were taught that business of “fill the earth and dominate it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air…”
RACHEL Like in a war?
JESUS Exactly, just like in a war. Those words made us think we were masters of creation, arrogant owners of the world, with the right to mistreat the earth and its animals. We didn’t understand that the Earth doesn’t belong to us; rather, we belong to the Earth and we must care for it as for a mother.
RACHEL So, then, you didn’t have any ecological consciousness.
JESUS No. I understood the world the way people of my time understood it. What I would tell the youth who just called is that he shouldn’t direct his questions to me. He should take inspiration from what the sciences preach about God’s marvels.
RACHEL But then, the Bible …
JESUS The Bible doesn’t teach us everything, Rachel. God is not contained in any one book, or in all the books of the world.
RACHEL Mr Christ, you speak of creation, but nowadays we speak of evolution. Do you know what that means?
JESUS No, I have no idea.
RACHEL Creation or evolution? That will be the controversial topic of our next interviews. Friends in our listening audience, please tune in for our program tomorrow at this same hour. Remember, we also broadcast on the Internet at www.emisoraslatinas.net. From alongside the eastern walls of Jerusalem, this is Rachel Perez, special correspondent.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
The book of the Universe
The Bible is not a history book, and even less is it a science book. Its entryway, the Book of Genesis, is not a scientific account of the beginning of the universe, as the creationists claim in their fanatical arrogance and ignorance.
The geneticist Richard Dawkins makes the following analogy: If the history of the universe were written on a scale of one century per page, how thick would the book be? From the creationist point of view, the whole history of the universe, written on such a scale, would fit easily into a thin pocketbook. But how would science answer the same question? To accommodate all the volumes of history written on that scale, some 16 kilometers of bookshelves would be needed. That shows the magnitude of the abyss that separates true science from the creationist teachings.
No traces in the Bible
The Bible is not a book that inspires us toward an ecological consciousness. The books of the Bible contain no traces of environmental sensitivity. Sometimes Psalm 104 is cited as proof of such “ecological sensitivity” in the Old Testament, but even that is inaccurate, since that psalm is a foreign element that crept into the Bible: it is an adaptation of the “Hymn to the Sun” of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton.
In the story about creation in the Bible’s first chapters, God orders human beings to “increase and multiply” and to “dominate” the earth. These are anti-ecological commands that we can today question, knowing as we do that an excess of human population – now more than six billion individuals – and an ideology of human domination over other living species and over natural resources are ruining life on the planet and causing the collapse of the civilization we have built on such “divine orders.” These commands of Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, are a personified contradiction of the respectful, reverent divinization of Nature that is so present in all the religions of the Great Mother Goddess.
Not more human beings, but better human brains
In the Spring 2007 issue of the journal Quorum of the University of Alcalá in Madrid, the Spanish physicist Antonio Ruiz de Elvira reflects on the greatest problem of our time, the climatic change. He relates his concerns to the two divine commandments in Genesis: 1) increase and multiply, and 2) dominate the earth and all that is in it. The scientist writes:
Combating climatic change is necessary, and at the same time it is tremendously useful for moving specific countries and humankind as a whole in the direction of real development. It is our duty and it will be our delight to do so.
Climatic change results from the absurd burning of coal and petroleum by human society. Like other animals, we human beings need energy to live, and when we found those two fuels we moved irrationally along a road from which there is no return. Having access to energy that requires no effort on our part, we have given free rein to population growth and to an accelerated destruction of the environment we need to survive. When we discovered that energy, we should been more moderate in using it, but the dominant culture forced us to use it foolishly.
Where does a culture come from? Richard Dawkins has coined the term “meme” as the social equivalent of the biological “gene”. Choosing a series of alternatives keeps producing social advances. During a long part of human history, when there was no other energy apart from the energy derived directly from photosynthesis or indirectly from the metabolism of photosynthetic vegetation, the only possibility of extracting useful energy came from the number of animals and persons that were available.
In such a society humans functioned simply as tools for labor and as soldiers for systematic robbery. In both cases population increase was useful and became a cultural value. Thus a meme developed, which became codified in the Bible, a book considered sacred by part of the planet’s inhabitants, in the form of a commandment that had to be obeyed, since it was seen as exogenous to the social system: “Increase, multiply, and fill the earth.” Nowadays, when there exists an increasing availability of energy, this cultural meme has generated a totally unnecessary overpopulation of the planet. At the same time another cultural meme developed: the desire to possess more than the basic human necessities. Since for some people guaranteeing personal and familial survival required dominating other persons and exploiting their labor, the possession of that power and other forms of wealth became an additional cultural meme.
The availability of energy has also led to the growth of consumption and an acceleration of the pace of life that are totally unnecessary, but are maintained and spread further among the world’s population. To satisfy these two cultural memes, people seek the simplest and quickest, but also the most contaminating, type of energy, instead of dedicating efforts in two directions: reduction of the population and use of other, non-contaminating kinds of energies.
Human survival depends today on considerations that are different from those of thousands of years ago. Today, instead of needing human beings as labor power, we need the brains of those human beings as creators of ideas. Instead of wealth derived from immediate brute energy, we need sophisticated energy in ever more technified forms. The survival of each individual now depends on the survival of the society as a whole and on our ability to limit climatic change. This will be possible only if we reject these two ancient cultural memes.
Science (not the Bible) and spirituality (and not the monotheistic religions) speak to us about the interconnection of our human species with everything that is alive; they explain to us the marvels of the life that surrounds us. Insisting on the dignity of life does not mean insisting only on the dignity of human life. Overcoming the anthropocentrism in which we have been educated is an indispensable condition for defending life.
In his book Pale Blue Dot, astrophysicist Carl Sagan states: How is possible that almost none of the principal religions has observed science and concluded: “This is much better than we thought! The Universe is much more important, more grand, more subtle, more elegant than our prophets told us”? Instead they say: “No, no no! My god is a tiny god, and I want him to stay that way.” Any religion, whether old or new, that stresses the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science should be able to tap into reserves of reverence and awe that have hardly been touched by the conventional creeds.
Psychologist and historian of science Michael Shermer states: What can be more moving than examining a distant galaxy with a 100-inch telescope, or holding in your hand a million-year old fossil or a 500,000-year old stone tool, or standing before the immense abyss of space and time which is the Grand Canyon, or listening to a scientist who is explaining the creation of the Universe without blinking? That is profound, sacred science.
But science is not opposed to spirituality. Rather it reinforces spirituality with countless proofs of the complexity, the beauty, the diversity, and the marvels of life. There have been great scientists who found in the marvels they discovered a transcendent meaning, a Mystery – whether they called it God or gave it another name doesn’t matter. Quantum physicist Max Planck wrote: I became religious because I thought things through to the end, and then I could no longer keep thinking. We all stop thinking too soon. Physicist Werner Heisenberg said: The first sip from the cup of the sciences makes one atheist, but at the bottom of the cup God is waiting.
Einstein: a religious non-believer
The great scientist Albert Einstein called himself “a deeply religious non-believer”; he was always humbly amazed at the “magnificent structure of nature.” Einstein wrote in “My Vision of the World”:
Mystery is the most beautiful thing we are given to feel. It is the basic sensation, the source of art and science. This experience of the mysterious, though mixed with fear, has also engendered religion. But true religiosity is knowing of that Existence which is impenetrable for us, knowing that there are manifestations of deepest Reason and of most resplendent Beauty. … In this sense, and only in this sense, do I belong to those who are profoundly religious. … I am satisfied with the mystery of Life’s eternity, with the presentiment and consciousness of the prodigious construction of what exists, with the honest aspiration to understand to the utmost what our reason is able to discern in the work of nature.
Kings of creation?
Certain myths of ancient Egypt relate how in the final judgment the animals will demand an accounting from humans about what we did to them, how well or how badly we treated them. Christianity, like Judaism, has not been able to develop an ethic that is capable of limiting human pretensions of dominating other living beings. It has separated human beings from nature and made them expatriates in the midst of nature, which is their mother. The widespread idea that we are “the chosen species”, the “kings of creation”, has separated us from the animals, the plants, and the rest of living beings. It has made us think we have the right to dominate them and use them for our own benefit, without consideration of what benefits them. And only now, when our domination and exploitation have begun to cause harm to ourselves, do we begin to reflect on the error of thinking ourselves to be “kings” and “queens”. If it were not the case that the environmental disaster that we have provoked by our reign was now hurting us, then we would continue to feel that we have the right to exhaust the natural resources and eliminate animal and plant species without feeling any respect or compassion for them.
According to the Brazilian eco-feminist theologian Ivone Gebara, even our belief in the resurrection makes us think anthropocentrically and feel that we are the only “chosen” creatures. She recommends that we rethink and reorient our belief in the resurrection from the dead: Why do we think that only human beings will rise? If we think that way, we cultivate a belief that establishes a hierarchy in which we end up a privileged species.
On October 15th, 1978, the International League for Animal Rights and the affiliated national leagues issued, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights. The text was revised and improved by the International League in 1990.
The Preamble is a gem of sensitivity, magnanimity and scientific precision. It states: Considering that life is unique and unrepeatable, since all living beings have a single origin and have become differentiated in the course of the evolution of the species; considering that every living being possesses natural rights and that every animal endowed with a nervous system and a brain has its own rights; considering that the contempt for and sheer ignorance of natural rights causes grievous assaults against nature and leads human beings to commit crimes against animals; considering that the coexistence of the different species in the world requires that the human species recognize the right of existence of the other animals; considering that human respect for animals is inseparable from the respect humans show among themselves …
Then follow the articles of the Declaration:
Article 1 – All animals have the same rights to existence within the framework of biological equilibriums. This equality does not obscure the diversity of species or of individuals.
Article 2 – Every live animal has the right to be respected.
Article 3 – No animal shall be submitted to cruel treatment or cruel acts. If the death of an animal is necessary, this should be instantaneous, painless and not anxiety-causing. The body of a dead animal should be treated with respect.
Article 4 – Every wild animal has the right to live free in its own natural habitat and to reproduce. Depriving them of their liberty, hunting or fishing for sport, and every use of wild animals for non-vital purposes are contrary to this right.
Article 5 – Every animal that human beings have in their possession has the right to be well maintained and to be cared for. In no case should an animal be abandoned or sacrificed without good reason. Every form of raising and using animals should respect the physiology and the behavior that are proper to each species. All forms of shows, publicity, spectacles, movies or videos which make use of animals should respect their dignity and not cause them any violence.
Article 6 – Experimentation with animals which causes physical or psychic suffering violates the rights of animals. Alternative substitute methods should be developed and put into practice systematically.
Article 7 – Every act involving the unnecessary death of an animal or any decision leading to such an act constitutes a crime against life.
Article 8 – Every act or decision that endangers the survival of a wild species constitutes genocide, which is a crime against the species. The massacre of wild animals and the contamination and destruction of biotypes are genocidal.
Article 9 – The juridical personality of an animal and its rights should be recognized by law through the entities which defend them. The defense and protection of animals should be recognized and have due representation within governmental organizations.
Article 10 – Education through public and private institutions should encourage human beings from childhood on to observe, understand and respect animals.
Nature: our Mother or our Daughter?
Knowledge of science can make us more human. In the last fifty years new scientific discoveries have been so great, so rapid and so revolutionary that we cannot remain indifferent to them. A Catalonian scientist of prehistory, Eudald Carbonell, urges responsibility on people with these words:
The possibility of making ourselves into gods is already a reality. The definitive replacement of natural selection by technical selection may be feasible in the course of the third millennium. This process, which progressively distances us from Mother Nature and actually makes her our Daughter, leads us to lose her guidance, and it can transform us into either orphans or creators, depending on our conceptions and our ability as humans to take responsibility for our destiny.
We are likely to forget that it was chance that made us hominids but that it is logic that should make us humans. Natural selection is what allowed for the evolution of the species by creating genetic differences. That is what made us hominids. Technical selection was the competition that